The dreadful Emmy chances for midseason series


For the Oscars, an early season release for a film is a well-known handicap. Exceptions keep hope alive for all comers, but the most comfortable spot for an Oscar contender by far is a winter release. Even the fall is considered the edge of too soon.

As we head into Emmy season, one could argue that the opposite takes place: The later you hit the screen, the worse your awards chances. It’s as if Emmy voters need time to digest you before they’ll jump on your bandwagon.


Consider this:

–The last midseason debut to earn an Emmy series nom that same year, before HBO’s “Game of Thrones” in 2011, was “The Sopranos” in 1999.
–The last midseason broadcast network drama to earn an Emmy series nom that same year was ABC’s “Twin Peaks” in 1990.
–The last midseason broadcast network comedy to earn an Emmy series nom that same year was CBS’ “Kate & Allie” in 1984.

Generally, the passage of time is more ally than adversary for contenders in the Emmy series category. In last year’s drama race, for example, eventual champion “Mad Men” wrapped up its season in October 2010, 11 months before Matthew Weiner and friends accepted their fourth consecutive statuette. Of the fellow nominees, “Boardwalk Empire” and “Dexter” each finished their 2011 Emmy seasons in December 2010, while “Friday Night Lights” aired its finale in February 2011, four months before nomination ballots came due. Only “Game of Thrones” and “The Good Wife” had new episodes being broadcast when voting was taking place.

In one sense, the film academy could take a lesson from its TV brethren. Clearly, screeners help bridge the gap for TV shows that are campaigning on dead air, but if it conquering the time-kudo continuum were that simple, then we wouldn’t have the Oscar paranoia about films fading from memory unless they came out after Thanksgiving. There seems to be a chicken-egg mental hurdle for film Academy voters to overcome: If it’s not late, it’s not great.

Perhaps this says it all: In order to be eligible for the Emmys, your show needs to air by May 31, nearly four months before the Emmys are presented. If your film came out four months before the Oscars, you’d almost consider yourself already eliminated.

But TV voters, you have your own issues. If anything, you folks are too quick to make up your minds before the season’s already done, even when evidence of fresh new contenders is right in front of you. Mid-year releases of shows slip under the Emmy radar — even if they’re on HBO, which would seem to have “Girls” and “Veep” — both debuting in April — in contention. Will NBC’s “Bent,” or ABC’s “Don’t Trust the B,” neither high-fallutin’ but each arguably funnier than either of those two HBO candidates, get much series consideration? Not likely.

In a sense, the Emmy campaigning season begins before you know it. It has roots in the season-preview period that takes place a year before the actual award is bestowed. You can almost give up on a series nom if you haven’t launched by Martin Luther King Day. It’s that hard to make a late Emmy splash.

Emmy nominations for first-year comedies (since 1984)

Series Network Premiere date First Emmy nomination
Modern Family ABC 9/23/2009 2010
Ugly Betty ABC 9/28/2006 2007
Desperate Housewives ABC 10/3/2004 2005
Arrested Development Fox 11/2/2003 2004
Ally McBeal Fox 9/8/1997 1998
Brooklyn Bridge CBS 9/20/1991 1992
Home Improvement ABC 9/17/1991 1992
Murphy Brown CBS 11/14/1988 1989
Frank’s Place CBS 9/14/1988 1989
Golden Girls NBC 9/14/1985 1986
The Cosby Show NBC 9/20/1984 1985
Kate & Allie CBS 3/19/1984 1984

Emmy nominations for first-year dramas (since 1990)

Series Network Premiere date First Emmy nomination
Game of Thrones HBO 4/17/2011 2011
Boardwalk Empire HBO 9/19/2010 2011
The Good Wife CBS 9/22/2009 2010
Damages FX 7/24/2007 2008
Mad Men AMC 7/19/2007 2008
Heroes NBC 9/25/2006 2007
Joan of Arcadia CBS 9/26/2003 2004
Six Feet Under HBO 6/3/2001 2002
24 Fox 11/6/2001 2002
The Sopranos HBO 1/10/1999 1999
The West Wing NBC 9/22/1999 2000
ER NBC 9/19/1994 1995
Chicago Hope CBS 9/18/1994 1995
NYPD Blue ABC 9/21/1993 1994
I’ll Fly Away NBC 10/7/1991 1992
Twin Peaks ABC 4/8/1990 1990

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